Ottis Gibson, South Africa's new coach, has not given Morne Morkel any assurances about the 2019 World Cup even though the fast bowler has indicated he could consider a Kolpak-deal if he is not part of South Africa's plans. Gibson has only had brief interactions with Morkel, who left the team camp after being injured in the first Test against Bangladesh in Potchefstoom, but said his 50-over future was not discussed in detail.
"I absolutely didn't tell him anything about the World Cup because it's still so far away," Gibson said after the second Test in Bloemfontein. "I'd encourage him to keep enjoying his cricket, which he's been doing before he got injured."
Gibson said that it was "not my understanding" that Morkel could look at other options if he is not part of the World Cup plans, though Morkel has publicly indicated as much.
During the opening round of the season's first-class matches, at which Gibson was present, last month, Morkel said "as a cricketer you need to look at options because you have a life span." He was specifically speaking about one-day cricket.
"I am 32 and it is one of the conversations I am going to have with Ottis to find out where I fit in with white-ball cricket‚ and if there are any plans for me in 2019‚" Morkel said. "Are they going to look to rebuild for the World Cup? I need to see what is going to happen. Am I going to miss out? I don't know when they are going to make the shift of bringing in younger players‚ those are all the things that must be communicated."
While Morkel did not mention Kolpak in that conversation, he has been previously linked to a move to the UK. South Africa may be able to hang on to him if Gibson is able to clarify where Morkel stands.
"I can't afford to sit on the sidelines for the next two years and not play cricket. It is all about timing and communication," Morkel said. "At the end of the day as a cricketer you need to look at the options because we have a life span. But if there is communication and you know where you stand‚ then it is easier for everyone."
Morkel was part of South Africa's most recent 50-over campaign, the Champions Trophy in England, where he played in all three group matches. Prior to that tournament, Morkel had not played an ODI for over a year while he recovered from a potentially career-threatening back problem. He made his comeback in Test cricket first and opted out of this year's IPL in a bid to stay fit for international cricket, but is now injured again.
Morkel suffered a grade two tear in his side and will spend between four and six weeks on the sidelines. While that has ruled him out of the ongoing Bangladesh series, Morkel expected to come back for the inaugural Global T20 and the rest of the South Africa's home summer, including Tests against India and Australia.
South Africa also have six ODIs against India, which will be an important part of their World Cup plan, but it remains to be seen if Morkel is part of that series. Gibson has indicated they will use ODIs this year to give exposure to as many players as possible before choosing candidates for the World Cup.
"We're looking at 34 or 35 games between now and 2019 and the idea between Faf, the selectors and I is to have a look at players who might be on the fringes. We have to give players opportunities so that in a year's time we narrow that pool down," Gibson said. "At the moment we need a wide pool of players to look at. We also need to determine the type of players - bearing in mind the conditions in England - that we're going to need. They need opportunities for the next year so that we can make better judgements going forward. Then we finally need to narrow down to 15 or 16 players we feel can play at the World Cup. It's still a long way but that's the plan."
Similarly, Gibson has yet to engage with former captain AB de Villiers, who will make himself available for all formats from Sunday. De Villiers will play in a practice match against Bangladesh on Thursday, then be part of the ODIs, and is aiming for a Test comeback by early 2018. But Gibson has not yet worked out how much cricket de Villiers will play or how he will slot back into the team, especially the Test side, which he has not played for since January last year.
"We're all looking forward to seeing AB. I've had a few conversations with him," Gibson said. "We haven't really had a face-to-face yet but that will happen."